Being part of a CSA is a great way to support the local economy and our local farms. Seeking out restaurants that buy from local producers is another important step. That can be tricky though for a number of reasons.
We’ve heard from some of our producers that restaurants and markets who no longer purchase their products continue to include their farm name on their menus and signage. So whose product are they using? Are they purchasing cheaper industrial food and charging a premium price, presenting it as local? We need to counter this “green washing” (aka cheating) by educating ourselves and asking the right questions.
Are restaurants supporting local farmers but not properly educating the waitstaff to share this info with customers? Do they use local ingredients but not even advertise it? Do they know that their customers are interested in eating locally-sourced food? How do we know if restaurant owners are being honest?
First, we ask our farmers who they sell to. We ask Preston at Eat Here St. Louis who buys from him (his business opened the same year as Fair Shares and sources local foods for chefs in the area–and to Fair Shares when he’s got something our farmers don’t have, aka Asian pears). Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) has a helpful resource on their website. This interactive map helps you locate farms, markets, restaurants, etc. in the area who support local. https://moenvironment.org/17-food-and-farm/299-local-foodshed-interactiv…
Above is a quick guide to local places to eat, drink and shop in St. Louis, which you can keep handy for reference.
The next, and arguably most important thing we can do is ASK. Call a restaurant and ask if they source from local farmers. If they say they aren’t sure, ask if they can find out for you. If they say yes, ask which farms. If they say no, ask if they would consider it in order to get your business. Ask your server at your favorite restaurants all these questions. Ask your farmers at the market if they sell to restaurants and then support those restaurants! Let the restaurants know that you are there supporting them because you want to support local farmers.
This is how change happens, and we can make change happen one plate at a time. Be the change! Oh, and do all your local grocery shopping at Fair Shares…thanks! 🙂